by Pastor Amy Walter-Peterson
The spring of my final year of seminary study, I was assigned Psalm 22 in a course on the Psalms. For weeks I engaged in a line-by-line analysis of the Psalm that Jesus quotes from the cross. It’s the best assignment I’ve ever been given.
The word “hope” never appears in Psalm 22, instead the Psalm uses vivid images to paint the picture of one who feels abandoned by Creator and community alike. Despair grows and beasts close in – bulls on all sides, roaring lions, pouncing dogs – and then, “from the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me” (v. 21). Just like that the tenses shift and what was present despair becomes past deliverance! What emerges is a song of praise that travels from family to congregation, from one generation to people yet unborn.
Hope isn’t named, it is experienced!
In this psalm, hope is deliverance and it travels across the generations through stories. Even more significantly, however, Psalm 22 suggests that praise-worthy deliverance is only known in the past tense, by looking in the rear-view mirror. I will only know I have been delivered from the beasts by telling the stories of the trials I face now. At some point, the Psalm suggests, present will become past, and God’s action will be clear. In the meantime, we tell the stories of now and trust that God is at work.
Hope for me is more a verb than a noun these days.
Hope is the very act of reading Scripture, offering prayer, showing up with colleagues, and facing the beasts of despair, doubt, burnout, and fatigue, and trusting that in time, the story of deliverance will be more clear and “future generations will … proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it” (v. 30b-31). That is the hope I cling to today.
Pastor Amy Walter-Peterson currently serves as the Acting Lead Pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Fairport, NY where she was called as co-Pastor in June 2017. She previously served calls with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Upstate New York Synod of the ELCA, and St. Mark Lutheran Church, Mayville, NY. Since March 2020, Amy has become a poetry lover and often shares favorite poems and reflections through Bethlehem’s Facebook page.